My spirit is a child of the great God of the universe, a son of heavenly Parents. But I, like almost all of humankind, can’t remember my life there, and therefore will only talk about my life here.
I was born on Monday, June 12, 1961 in Salt Lake City, Utah, and lived there for about a month. I’m sure it was a lovely month, though my brain can’t seem to recall it. I was the third of six children born to my parents. In my younger years, my family moved quite a bit. I attended seven different elementary schools, living in Las Vegas, Nevada; Wailuku, Hawaii (on the island of Maui), where I was baptized; Jacksonville, Florida; and Houston, Texas. My dad worked for the National Weather Service, and I guess we had to follow the weather around. It was in Florida, as a fourth grader, that I was first made to recognize that I might have a future in music. We were driving somewhere with the radio on. I was in the back seat, and my mother was in the front. And I was singing along, making up harmonies to the songs on the radio. My mother kept looking back at me, and listening. Then she finally said, “Son, you have a gift.” I still remember that moment.
Soon we moved to Houston, and it was there that music became especially important to me. Our family had brought back a ukulele from Hawaii, and out of the blue, my new elementary school started up a free, several-week-long, early-morning ukulele class. So I took our family uke and participated in the class, learning a few chords and getting a little experience with an instrument. During my last two years of grade school, and in junior high school, I became very involved in the school musicals. In junior high, I also sang in a rock band with some very talented musicians…and I thought, if these eighth graders can play the guitar like that, then I can learn to do it, too. So, I paid one of the guitarists two dollars to show me a musical scale and a couple of chords, and that’s when my love affair with the guitar began. I borrowed my different friends’ guitars, and would practice for four to six hours, day after day…sometimes falling asleep at night on my bed, still in my clothes and the guitar next to me. I would listen to guitar music, and figure out by ear what they were doing. I was so passionate about it. Music was filling up my soul.
As I finished junior high, I was fortunate to go on and attend Houston’s High School for the Performing and Visual Arts (HSPVA). I was able for those two years to focus daily on vocal music, music theory, and performance. But it was also during this time that my testimony of Jesus Christ, the Book of Mormon, and the restoration of the gospel kicked into high gear. I attended early-morning seminary at our church meetinghouse, and began to feel the beauties of heaven flowing into my soul. It was then that a seed was planted: a desire to use my voice to sing about the Lord and His glorious gospel. As an eleventh grader, every morning after seminary, I had to ride the city bus across town to get to HSPVA, which would take 40 minutes to an hour. It was during those bus rides that I was able to read the Book of Mormon all the way through, and was given the wonderful witness of its truthfulness. At the end of that school year, my family moved to Orem, Utah, to a high school of 2,400 students, approx. 95% of who were Latter-day Saints (Mormons).Orem High also had at that time a very successful and well-known music department. I was fortunate to join their fantastic choir, and smaller vocal chamber group. Meanwhile I now associated with dozens and dozens of dedicated LDS youth and felt the powerful support of many who shared my same love for the Lord, and interest in music. It was an amazing year. At the end of this senior year, for my eighteenth birthday, my parents bought me my first guitar (which I named Aubrey after one of my favorite love-songs I learned by the group, Bread).
After graduation, I spent the next year developing my musical skills and preparing myself to be an ambassador for God in the world. I was then called to serve as a missionary for two years in Switzerland and France. It was a hard mission, but I enjoyed working for God in such a dedicated and specific way. I feel that God accepted my efforts on His behalf.
Shortly after returning from my mission, God continued to open up musical doors for me until I was invited to sing on the Church’s seminary and institute album, Not of The World (1984).
For the next couple of years, I continued to sing for events on BYU campus, as well as perform in restaurants in downtown Provo at night. It was also during these years that I began to try my hand at songwriting.
THE MUSIC TAKES FLIGHT
In 1986, I was approached by a couple of friends, Tony Willis and Scott Flake, to consider becoming a youth counselor for the Especially For Youth (EFY) program. That sounded very exciting to me, as I would be able to hang out with the youth who came and encourage them in their spiritual growth. EFY was quite young at the time. The week-long summer sessions had never left BYU campus, and there were only three or four sessions held the year before. I was quite grateful when, after applying, I found out I had been hired as a counselor. My duties would consist of giving evening devotionals to my small group of young men, as well as be with them during the day as they participated in the program’s activities. Of course, I would bring my guitar and sing to them at night as part of my devotionals. As we counselors began our training, I got the wild idea of writing a song to go along with that year’s theme, Lovin’ Life. I approached the young adult leader over the counselors, a guy named John Bytheway, and asked if he would mind me trying to write a theme song. He smiled and said that would be fine. Well, after I presented it to him, he really liked it. John, my brother Bryan, and another friend, Phil Reichenbach, came forward with a few hundred dollars so we could record the song. After playing it for the program director, Ron Hills—the founder of EFY—Ron suggested that we should look into duplicating some cassette tapes and make the song available to the youth who came that summer. (It went well and everyone got their money back who pitched in.) That year was also the year that Ron decided to take the program away from the BYU campus for the first time…to leave Utah for just one session and see how it went. It was the first session of the summer. We, as the staff, all got on a plane and flew to San Diego for that first week. There, at San Diego State University, we had some small problems, as some workshop speakers would fall through. Eventually, the singer that was suppose to come down to San Diego on that Thursday and give the spiritual fireside before the testimony meetings also backed out of his agreement. Ron and John, now in a tight spot, turned to me and asked if I could take that singer’s place for this one time, and sing some songs and tell a few stories to help the youth get spiritually prepared for the testimony meetings. I did and everything started to change quickly from then on. Ron hired me to give that fireside for the rest of the summer, as well as continue to be a counselor. I began getting requests from all across the country to speak at youth conferences and firesides. It was time to buckle up my seat belt and take the ride. But there was a problem. I needed more music…new music. I began to write songs, and was soon introduced to Lex de Azevedo, who asked me to become a musical artist on his new contemporary gospel record label.
My first solo album, Heaven—Don’t Miss It For The World (released in 1988), was created out of this desire to make music to help strengthen the youth of the Church. I also continued to work on EFY recordings. Then came Greater Than Us All (1989), with the songs “His Hands” and “Never a Better Hero.” In 1991, I released another contemporary album titled Voices, with the song “Face to Face.” Then came the theme-based projects: My Servant Joseph (1993) and Women at the Well (1995). These were followed by Stories from Eden’s Garden (1998), A Prayer unto Thee (1999), Joseph Smith—the Seer (2000), and Hear My Praise (2002). In 2005, the record company released Face to Face—Kenneth Cope Collection. My most recent full album was born in 2008, titled All About You. And in 2012, I most recently created three new contemporary inspirational songs for the youth of the Church to go along with the year’s youth theme…the EP is called Rise and Shine.
I’ve also been blessed to mentor and produce some fantastic new artists over the course of the last two decades: The Goodman Family in 1997 with Fortress of Love (which they used as they sang internationally in United Nations summits, and World Congress on the Family gatherings); Katherine Nelson who I brought into the EFY album in 1997 and also had her sing all my back-up vocals on my Stories From Eden’s Garden album; Mindy Gledhill with her debut album, The Sum of All Grace (2004); and Daniel Beck with his first solo project, Love Like That (2008).
I am currently creating a musical for the stage about the life of Christ, titled Son of Man.